Discover more from Video Shop
🎬 #63 Vivid Violence©️
Both movies this week are vivid and stunning, haunting and touching, brutal and violent. And in a perfectly ambient way they’re as much about mood than anything else. They’re also from two filmmakers that are distinctive brands onto themselves.
Enjoy the mashup of body, identity and the role you should be playing in your life.
Happy choosing, happy viewing
FILM ONE: ONLY GOD FORGIVES
2013 Dir Nicholas Winding Refn
I saw this when I first moved to London. Refn’s follow-up to Drive, which was a huge success critically and commercially - the biggest of his career. So when Gosling was attached to his newest project, the broader cinema going audience were expecting more of the same. But I sat back and watched as maybe 5 or more people walked out of the cinema - probably shocked that what they were watching was nothing at all like the film they expected it to be i.e. Drive 2. But I loved it. Stark, brutal, mostly dialogue free and drenched in Refn’s bold colours [he’s colourblind so works off strong contrast]. It’s dreamlike in places which makes the sudden violence sting even more.
Set in Bangkok, Thailand, the film follows Julian (played by Ryan Gosling), an American expat who runs a boxing club as a front for his family's drug-smuggling operation. Gosling plays against the heroic archetype and is instead someone who’s looking for respect, who in essence is powerless. Especially when his overpowering Mum [played by Kristin Scott Thomas] shows up.
The slow-paced nature of Refn’s direction, and the minimal dialogue lends the film a tone poem quality - every location, every shot is stunning, and the soundtrack [By Cliff Martinez] is hauntingly beautiful. This is a strict, freudian character study of Julian, who is trying to come to terms with his past and the role he plays in his family's criminal enterprise. It’s a film that invites you to bath in the visuals, to sit back and take this world in, sweat drenched in red neon. When you watch it you’ll see why Refn resorted to asking the cast to ‘act in slow motion’ for some scenes.
TL;DR why should I spend 1 hrs 30 mins of my precious life watching this? Sink into Refn and Gosling’s follow-up to Drive that explores identity and control with a heady, intoxicating mix of neon violence and electronic score.
*Available for a small rental fee on Google Play, YouTube and Amazon in the US, as well as the UK.
Fact: Refn’s reference for Kristin Scott Thomas’ look in the film was Donatella Versace. Bonus: You can see an in-depth behind the scene’s look at the making of the film from Refn’s wife’s perspective in her doc ‘My Life Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn.’
FILM TWO: POSSESSOR
2020 Dir Brandon Cronenberg
Brandon owes a lot to his father David Cronenberg - there’s the horrifying body melting imagery, as in the above gif, but there is a thrust and sense of action that feel like his Dad amped up a few notches.
The film follows Tasya Vos (played by Andrea Riseborough), an elite assassin who uses brain-implant technology to take control of people's bodies and carry out her assassinations. But her carefully managed life starts to go awry when her latest job takes a dark turn as she starts to lose control of her host and begins to experience their memories and emotions.
She starts to blend into their identity, brought to life in vivid and imaginative bodily imagery throughout, as Brandon deploys a range of practical and CGI effects to make physical what is going on in the character’s mind.
Like Only God Forgives, the film explores themes of identity and control. And like I alluded to, the mix of practical and digital effects helps create a unique and unsettling atmosphere that memorably brings these themes to life. The extreme violence, adds to the physicality of the film, it ramps up the stakes, never shying away from the consequences and mess the protagonist creates as she goes about her job.
I love the production design, it feels ultra luxury meets Japanese tech mecha by way of Dieter Rams. Again the influence of his father's tastes are clearly seen in the recurring theme of tech and it’s intersection with the flesh.
TL;DR why should I spend 1hrs 43 minutes of my precious life watching this? Feel emotionally and physically violated, in a good way, by Cronenberg’s bloody dive in to the subconscious world of an assassin who’s loosing grip on her own identity.
*Available for for a small rental fee on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and YouTube in the US, as well as the UK.
Fact: Cronenberg sites Dario Argento’s back catalogue as a big inspiration for the film.
Thanks for reading Video Shop! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.